Twin LED headlamps and the great graphics job make the Africa Twin stand out. Both the front cowl and the windscreen help deflect wind which adds to a safer ride. For the time being the victory red shade is the only one on offer here in India though globally there’s are options. When compared to the Triumph Tiger Explorer or the KTM 1090R in terms of dimensions the Africa twin does not look so intimidating. It looks leaner and that’s not such a bad thing for a machine that’s also meant to go off the road. The vertical design of the Instrument cluster works well because it’s easier to read but at times you feel it’s not bright enough and can have better contrast as well. You’ll find a lot of buttons around the panel and on the handle bars which are laid out very nicely. Within no time you get used to each one of them. On the front is a narrow 21 inch wheel and 18 inch one finds place on the rear. Look closely and there’s also the CRF model name which of course comes straight from the dirt bike business.
Engine & Riding modes
The Africa twin runs on a 999cc parallel twin engine that churns out 87 bhp at 7500 rpm and 91.9 Nm of maximum torque. These numbers make the Africa Twin the strong punchy adventure bike that delivers when required. But the biggest pull on the Africa Twin is the DCT gearbox which means gear changes are automatic and of course there’s no clutch. In India we’re not used to seeing automatic bikes even in liter class or more so this one is definitely a revelation. This is one feature that is sure to find a lot of takers. There are four riding modes which include 3 levels of sport modes. They augur well for different riding situations as with each increasing mode the upshifts happen later at much higher rpms. You can also switch between automatic and manual at a press of a button and there are paddle shifts as well. According to Honda the Africa Twin can do more than 400 kms in one go due to the big 18.5 liter fuel tank. Top speed is claimed to be 190 kmph.
Ride & Handling
At 230 kgs the bike is also pretty manageable as long as you’re comfortable with the seat height. This is because it offers a very acceptable ride position. The foot pegs are placed just right and you can remove the rubber from them in case you feel it is hampering the grip. The seat height can also be adjusted which is a great tool. The Africa Twin comes standard-equipped with the HSTC or Honda Selectable Torque Control system which controls the engine’s torque output by detecting differences in the slip ratio between front and rear wheels. On wet tarmac this system was put to immediate test and never did the rear wheel lose traction. There are 3 levels of traction control that can be changed on the fly. It’s surprising how despite being 21 inches in size the front wheels have not had a negative impact on handling. The suspension travel has around 9 inches of travel on both wheels and that ensures a very supportive ride even on the worst of surfaces. It felt just right despite the adjustment option.
The Africa Twin is supposed to behave like a dream off the road; and it does. That is because it comes with plenty of tools that aid in a confident ride. The G or gravel button gives a lot more direct drive to the rear wheel. It helps in getting half clutch operations for more demanding situations like hill ascent or descent. On our ride off the road Honda experts recommended that we keep Traction control off, put the bike in manual gears and press to G button to have the most reassuring ride. It did work wonders as the bike was able to tackle the terrain really well. And add to that 250mm inches of ground clearance and you have a very capable off roader. However absence of off-road tyres meant we had to be a little more careful on the slippery surfaces. Another problem is that each time you turn the Ignition off and turn it on again you have to reselect all the settings for off-road riding. At the press of a button you can also turn off the ABS system for the rear brake, allowing the rider to lock the rear wheel when riding off-road.
Africa twin surely is the most nimble adventure bike you’ll see in the market. It’s a bike that tests you, pardons you and makes you feel more confident about the ride. If you have a flair for adventure this one’s for you. It is also Honda’s first liter class bike to be made in India and that somewhat explains its attractive price tag of 13.06 lakh rupees, ex showroom. This only means if Honda decides to get the manual version soon, it’ll be even cheaper. You can find one at any of 22 Honda Wing world outlets in the country.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars